Report: Rancher participation key in Sage Grouse Initiative projects

Report: Rancher participation key in Sage Grouse Initiative projects

Report accompanies agreement with state of Montana that aims to improve joint efforts on sage grouse conservation

Since 2010, more than 1,100 ranchers have teamed up with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in the partnership led by the agency to conserve habitat on 4.4 million acres.

Related: Report: Ranchers making headway in preserving sage grouse habitat

SGI has invested more than $424 million, of which more than 75% is invested in the highest priority areas.

The work of conservation interests – including states, conservation districts, wildlife and agricultural groups, land trusts and federal partners – in preserving habitat for sage grouse are highlighted in a new report, "Success on the Range," unveiled this week by SGI.

The Sage Grouse Initiative unveiled a new report July 20 that highlights the people and partnerships responsible for sage grouse conservation efforts on private lands. It accompanied a MOU between NRCS, Montana and the SWCD of Montana; NRCS Chief Jason Weller, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and SWCDMI President Jeff Wivholm signed the agreement at Montana’s capitol (USDA photo)

The report accompanied a memorandum of understanding signed this week in Helena, Mont., that will formally link the state, NRCS and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana, Inc. as joint partners to conserve privately owned working rangelands using win-win solutions showcased in SGI.

This collaboration is especially important in Montana, according to a USDA blog, where 70% of all sage grouse habitat occurs on privately owned grazing lands.

Related: Sage-grouse conservation efforts working: Western Governors

"While today we celebrate the unprecedented success achieved over the past five years, we also recognize that our work is not yet complete," said Tim Griffiths of the NRCS in a USDA blog. "Lessons learned are being translated into new opportunities and actions as we continue to scale up the effort. New partnerships, like the one that was forged today in Montana, give hope that even larger successes lie on the horizon."

According to NRCS Chief Jason Weller, the agreement provides the necessary framework for cooperation, streamlining protection and enhancement of sage grouse habitat on privately-owned working rangelands.

"Through the MOU, partners will be able to better explore innovative approaches to sage grouse habitat conservation and management, promote voluntary and incentive-based approaches for delivery, and strategically align their collective resources to alleviate threats facing sage grouse and ranching," he said.

"SGI is making a difference because private landowners voluntarily work with us to produce results on the ground,” Weller said. “The decisions Western ranchers and other private landowners make every day about what to do on their land will continue to have a critical impact on sage grouse," he added.

Download the new report on the Sage Grouse Initiative website.

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